On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 24, State of North Carolina health officials announced the state’s first flu-related death of the 2019-20 flu season and they want to use that sad occurrence to help make sure others don’t share the same fate.

Officials with the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health announced Thursday that the first reported flu-related death of the new flu season involved an adult in the central part of the state.

The Division of Public Health’s surveillance for the 2019-20 flu season began on Sunday, Sept. 29 and will continue through late May.

A press release sent out by the state didn’t name the person, who died earlier this month.

“In order to protect the privacy of the family,” the department stated, “the person’s hometown, county, age and gender will not be released.”

As could be expected, the state is using the event to encourage others in the state to get vaccinations.

“We are very saddened by this death and send condolences to the loved ones of this person,” NC Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore stated.

“Flu is a serious illness and in some cases can lead to complications and even result in death,” he added, “which is why we strongly encourage people to get vaccinated every year.”

State numbers show that there were fewer flu deaths in the last flu season, 2018-19, than there were in the season prior to that.  In 2018-19, there were 208 flu deaths reported in North Carolina, down from 391 deaths during the 2017-18 flu season that proved very deadly.

Of those 208 deaths in the last season, 133 were people age 65 and older, and five were under the age of 18.

Guilford County Health Director Merle Green and other county health officials have also recently been using the beginning of flu season as a reason to get warnings out to county residents about the dangers of the flu – especially for those in high-risk groups such as the elderly.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination against the flu for every individual six months and older and say that any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine is acceptable.

The Thursday press release from the state notes: “Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection with the flu. Vaccination can also make illness milder for those who do get the flu, making it especially important for those at higher risk of more serious outcomes, such as people over 65 years old, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.”

In North Carolina, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring with activity usually peaking in January or February.  Local and state health officials also suggest taking the following measures:

  • Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours.
  • Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
  • If you think you have the flu, contact their doctor right away to see if you need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug.